Located just 150kms south of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, and 260kms north of Singapore, resting peacefully on the banks of a river which once teemed with Chinese junks and spice-laden vessels, the historic seaside town of Malacca is steeped in a rich tapestry of multicultural influences.
Founded in the early 1400’s by a Sumatran prince, the town quickly grew to become the most important entry point and gateway to the Spice Islands during the lucrative spice trade. The Malacca of today is a rich mélange of Portugese Dutch, British, Chinese, Indian and Malay influences. Recently cited by UNESCO as a cultural site of note and added to the world heritage list, the town encourages visitors to explore its unique treasure trove of 600-year-old narrow pathways and numerous cultural sites.
The Majestic Hotel and Spa is a luxury boutique hotel which plays an integral part in Malacca's colourful history. The original mansion, dating back to the 1920's lies at the fore with an adjacent wing housing 52 rooms, two suites and a Spa Village.
The luxurious rooms feature original porcelain or timber flooring, teakwood fittings, intricate artwork and antiques. Each room has an open plan concept with wooden sliding doors between the bathroom and the sleeping area. Most have four-poster beds and a large claw foot bathtub to reflect the glory days of old Malacca. If you’re lucky you may even return to your room of an evening to find the staff has drawn the most wonderful hot bath for you. Ours was filled with a heavenly mix of sliced pandan and kaffir leaves, jasmine flowers, rose petals, red carnations and sliced kaffir lime. Of course there’s bathrobes, tea and coffee making facilities, minibars, large flat screen TV’s and free broadband access too.
The Mansion and the Lounge at the Mansion offer an incredible mix of cuisines influenced by the Portugese, Dutch, English and Peranakan (Straits Chinese) cultures. Overlooking the Malacca River, The Mansion is a semi-formal dining room where staff cannot do enough for you. The menu choices mimic the fusion cuisine of the early 1500’s and include such Peranakan classics as Otak-Otak, a baked fish mousse with kaffir lime leaves, Ayam Cencaluk, sautéed chicken morsels in an authentic Nyonya spice-mix and Pan-fried Snapper Assam Pedas, marinated snapper in spicy-sour sauce with aubergines and okra.
Afternoon tea in the Lounge is also a treat not to be missed. Served in an intimate casual area of the mansion reminiscent of Singapore’s infamous Raffles Hotel, a three tiered serving platter is ceremoniously set down before you filled with a host of taste sensations. To our amazement these included a mix of Nyonya pastries such as beancurd rolls, dumplings and samosas as well as cucumber sandwiches, scones and tasty individual chocolate cakes. If hotel guests are still peckish at any hour day or night, there are several large clear jars strategically placed around the lounge which are filled with delectable Nyonya treats that just beg to be sampled. These range from sour plums and dried peas to a sticky Malaccan toffee lolly that is definitely an acquired taste!
The Spa Village Malacca is situated within the hotel over two levels and aims to honour the healing traditions of the local region. This is the world’s only spa to base its therapies in the healing heritage of the Baba-Nyonya – a unique combination of Chinese and Malay influences. These are inter-twined to create a memorable spa experience. Inspired by the elaborate and colourful 12-day Peranakan Wedding Ceremony, every guest enjoys a pre-treatment experience that includes a soothing hair care ritual of washing, combing and scalp massage.
The Spa’s therapies are designed around a person’s cool or warm energies – based on Peranakan belief and inspired by traditional Chinese Medicine. The various combinations of age-old traditional remedies sourced from natural indigenous ingredients, are believed to cleanse, replenish and reinvigorate, both physically and mentally. There is an extensive list of menu items to choose from and I selected the famous Signature Experience for which travellers from all over Malaysia and Singapore queue. The treatment (for cool energy) was made up of a warm sticky Malacca palm sugar and honey body scrub, a hot nutmeg and rice compact rolled across my body as a deep-tissue, therapeutic and relaxing massage, a pandan-coconut hair mask and a bird’s nest and tapioca facial treatment that left my skin simply glowing. The entire treatment, which lasted for over three hours, was stunning.
Malacca is a region where empires have grown and fallen. European colonial powers have ruled and the strong Chinese influence continues as it has done for hundreds of years. It is a fascinating and unique destination, unlike anywhere else. The experience is akin to stepping back in time hundred of years to a period of gentleness, care and comfort, where warm welcomes and fond farewells are everywhere. Coupled with the nostalgic crossover of cultures, the experience is deeply memorable and as promised, rejuvenating and restorative both for mind and body.